President Calls for Strengthened Mental Health Parity in Annual Address

A federal effort to confront escalating mental health issues – including a refocus on mental health coverage parity – was a central part of President Biden’s State of the Union address that he delivered to lawmakers March 2.

The United States is facing what the White House calls an “unprecedented mental health crisis.” Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting worry, isolation and depression, mental health issues today impact every two out of five adults and an increasing number of children and adolescents.

In addition to solutions aimed at expanding the supply of mental health providers in shortage areas and investing in training programs, the Biden administration seeks to “expand and strengthen” mental health parity by advancing additional terms of coverage to health plans.

In recent months, some states, such as California, have already moved to address disparities in mental health coverage that continue to exist. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was intended to have mental health benefits covered at the same level as those for physician health care, yet many mental health advocates have pushed to further close gaps in coverage that remain.

“The President’s fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget will propose that all health plans cover robust behavioral health services with an adequate network of providers, including three behavioral health visits each year without cost-sharing,” states a White House fact sheet detailing the proposals outlined during the speech.

The topic of mental health parity was one of the key areas of focus during NAIRO’s 2022 Symposium which took place March 29-31, 2022, at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on Kiawah Island, S.C. The theme for the three-day event was “Protecting Review Integrity During Healthcare and Regulatory Evolution,” highlighting changes in healthcare and the regulatory environment and the impact on IROs, Workers’ Compensation Organizations and Health Utilization Management Organizations.

During the symposium, guest speaker Garry Carneal, JD, MA, presented the session, “Assessing the Impact of Generally Accepted Standards of Care (GASC) Requirements on the UM and Appeals Process: California SB 855 Spotlight.”

President and CEO of Schooner Strategies, a healthcare consulting firm specializing in mental health parity issues, accreditation, government relations and more, Carneal has an established track record in helping healthcare organizations, nonprofits and trade associations develop national policy positions and expand their operations.

As more details come into focus on mental health parity, review organizations should continue to monitor the details to stay on top of pending coverage changes.

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